Forget all the sequels: the new "Halloween" is a worthy follow-up to the 1978 original

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It's the thrill ride horror fans have been waiting decades for and had every reason to believe they'd never receive. 

But director David Gordon Green has come together with co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley and cooked up one hell of an October surprise. Fresh, frightening and even funny — with a ferocious Jamie Lee Curtis performance to boot — "Halloween" straight up rocks.

Along with his cohorts, Green — whose wildly varied career includes acclaimed indies ("George Washington"), studio comedies ("Pineapple Express") and based-on-a-true-story dramas (the Boston Marathon bombing survival tale "Stronger") — went back to John Carpenter's 1978 original to see what worked then, and apply what works today.

It's that first movie's breathless air of suspense, Carpenter's eerie, propulsive score and the expressionless, blank sense of nothingness exuded by Michael Myers (known in the credits simply as "The Shape") that made "Halloween" the blood red standard for slasher movies, and one that's never been paralleled. 

The "Halloween" effect was dulled by seven throwaway sequels (and two mirthless Rob Zombie takes on the story), so Green did the right thing and threw them all away. (Good thing, too: 1998's "H20" took the idiotic leap of making Curtis' Laurie Strode the sister of Michael Myers, and 2002's "Halloween: Resurrection" killed off Curtis' character by tossing her off a roof.)

The new "Halloween" functions as a direct sequel to the original, and Curtis' Laurie returns as buff and badass as Linda Hamilton was in "T2." She's been waiting 40 years for a clash with Myers, she's ready for a fight, and "Halloween" gives her the marquee showdown she's been craving.

Joining the ranks are Hollywood's favorite best friend, Livonia's own Judy Greer, as Laurie's daughter, Karen; Andi Matichak as Karen's daughter, Allyson; and Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees as a pair of podcasters who visit an aging Michael Myers in a psychiatric institution, kickstarting Myers' return to Haddonfield, Illinois, just in time for trick-or-treating. 

Green has laced the film with references and callbacks to the original film; even the opening credit sequence functions as a direct homage to the original. 

And Carpenter returns to the fold with a score that uses his original as a base and builds off it with a harder, more menacing edge. Carpenter's presence alone — he hasn't contributed to a "Halloween" film since 1981 — gives the film an authenticity that propels it forward. 

Green pays the ultimate respect to the original by staging several genuinely scary sequences, including a tense showdown in a bathroom stall that ups the film's squirm factor. 

And once Myers returns to town on Halloween night, Green pulls off a bravura tracking shot that traces Myers for several minutes, passing down the sidewalk and through and around several homes while he stalks his prey. 

Freddy and Jason never had it this good; Green and his co-conspirators approach "Halloween" with reverence and care for what it was and successfully resurrect the series from the dead.

"Halloween" is proof that horror icons never truly die. To come back to life, they just need a little love. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Halloween'

GRADE: A-

Rated R horror violence and bloody images, language, brief drug use and nudity

Running time: 109 minutes

 

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